IT's one of the oldest tricks in politics: ooh, don't mind me, I'm just a housewife. Margaret Thatcher told us in 1980 that spending cuts were essential because 'every housewife has to' stop shopping when there's nothing in the purse. During the election, David Cameron suggested that shaving squillons off public spending was just the sort of scrimping on pennies that households do all the time. No doubt we'll hear it all again during this month's Budget.
Which is timely, as a bit of frugality is long overdue in this downshifted household. So to cheer myself up during the grim process of spending less money, I'm conducting a little experiment. Where possible, I'll be channelling current Treasury thinking when I take the scalpel - or possibly, given my last bank statement, a whopping big axe - to the Hinsliff finances. Who knows what we might learn about the real economy from this not-even-remotely-scientific model, eh?
So here are the ground rules:
1. I won't cut back on frontline services. After careful thought, am defining these as: things that genuinely make three-year-olds happy; gin and tonic; occasionally getting out of the house.
2. I will act in the true spirit of coalition, ie I haven't really told my husband what I'm doing. I am by nature stingy, fretful and given to hoarding bits of string in case they come in handy: he cheerfully blows money on what I regard as total rubbish. This, I feel, may give me a useful insight into the relationship between the Tories and the LibDems.
3. I shall consider the merits of salami slicing all budgets vs boldly axing big programmes, or what I call The Highlights Question: viz, I could save a fair bit of money by no longer being blonde. Or I could keep going to the hairdresser and cut back a bit everywhere else. Hmm.
4. I will devolve spending locally. Which means: first for the chop is money spent via corporate giants with rude call centres. Last to go is anything bought from shops you can walk to, where they hold the door open for pushchairs.
So for the next month, we shall be Delivering More With Less Money on this blog. And Making Things Better Without Just Spending Money. And, of course, being Brutally Honest About The Results (that last is the only one that is not an authentic Cameron slogan, by the way) on here. If you're doing the same, please join in and share your ideas.
Tomorrow: the efficiency savings begin....